TRUMP, RUSSIAN SPIES AND THE INFAMOUS ‘GOLDEN SHOWER MEMOS’
Updated | The story began making the rounds at Washington dinner parties late last summer: Donald Trump had been caught in a compromising sexual position by Russian intelligence agents during a business trip to Moscow. According to one version, told by a high-ranking Obama administration diplomat, Russian intelligence services, acting on Trump’s well-known obsession with sex, had arranged an evening for him with a bevy of hookers, with hidden cameras and microphones recording all the action. The jaw-dropping detail that topped the story? Trump had somehow engaged in “golden showers,” sex acts involving urine.
Now, according to a leaked annex to the combined U.S. intelligence agencies’ report on Kremlin intrigues in the American elections, Russian security agents watched Trump engaging in “perverted sexual acts” that were “arranged/monitored by the FSB,” the Kremlin’s leading spy agency. The FSB, it said, “employed a number of prostitutes to perform a golden showers (urination) show in front of him.” Not only that, according to the report’s anonymous Russian sources, Trump deliberately chose for his escapade “the Ritz Carlton hotel, where he knew President and Mrs. Obama (whom he hated) had stayed on one of their official trips to Russia and defiling the bed where they had slept.”
The veracity of the report and its sourcing have not been verified. CNN reported only that a two-page summary of the report “was presented last week to President Barack Obama and President-elect Trump [and] included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump.” It cited “multiple U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the briefings,” and said the FBI was investigating. BuzzFeed published what it said was the full report ”compiled by a person who has claimed to be a former British intelligence official.”
“It’s all fake news,” Trump said referring to the allegations on Wednesday. “It’s all phony stuff.”
Former Acting CIA Director John McLaughlin also raised a yellow flag about the report, which he said he had not yet read. “The two things I’d like most to know are 1.) what is the chain of acquisition—it was apparently circuitous. That always holds clues on whether someone has an agenda and what that might be,” he tells Newsweek in an email. “2.) Who is the author—is it someone with experience and skill at vetting sources or someone less so. Without knowing these things, it’s impossible to judge.”
If the report had merely added a fringe of kink to Trump’s recorded “bragging about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women,” as described by The Washington Post when it unearthed a videotape last summer, the president-elect and his devoted followers might have been able to brush it off as just another eccentricity by their idol. Indeed, an earlier abbreviated version of the newly reported allegations by Mother Jones magazine Washington Bureau Chief David Corn in October, citing “a former senior intelligence officer for a Western country who specialized in Russian counterintelligence,” roused only passing, titillating interest.
But repackaged and expanded on by U.S. intelligence, the new report adds heft to what some fear explains Trump’s otherwise inexplicable fondness for the Kremlin, perhaps America’s leading antagonist: According to the report’s anonymous sources, “Trump’s unorthodox behavior in Russia over the years provided the authorities with enough embarrassing material on the now-Republican presidential candidate to be able to blackmail him if they so wished.”
Blackmail would elevate the story from tawdry sex to national security. And the report underscored what U.S. intelligence had been saying for weeks, with far less effect: Trump “and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his democratic and other political rivals.”
CNN’s report exploded like a star shell Tuesday night, throwing a blinding light on the Trump camp’s Russian connections like no other previous revelation. The cable channel cautioned that “the allegations came, in part, from memos compiled by a former British intelligence operative, whose past work U.S. intelligence officials consider credible” but had not been independently confirmed. “The memos originated as opposition research, first commissioned by anti-Trump Republicans, and later by Democrats,” CNN reported. But the channel added that the FBI “is investigating the credibility and accuracy of these allegations, which are based primarily on information from Russian sources.”
On Wednesday, citing unnamed sources, The Wall Street Journal reported that the author of the memos was Christopher Steele, one of two directors of the Orbis Business Intelligence, a London-based firm. Christopher Burrows, the other director of Orbis, did not “confirm or deny” that his company had created the memos, according to the paper.
Aside from the sordid allegations, the memos also allege that Russia tried to entice Trump with business. “The Kremlin’s cultivation operation on Trump,” the U.S. intelligence report said, included “offering him very lucrative real estate development business deals in Russia, especially in relation to the ongoing 2018 World Cup soccer tournament. However, so far, for reasons unknown, Trump had not taken up any of these.”
The report also detailed Moscow’s interest in the Clintons. Reports on Hillary Clinton were “collated” by Directorate K of the FSB spy agency “for many years,” it said, “dating back to her husband Bill’s presidency.” But not much was found by bugging Clinton’s hotel rooms, the sources said: The spies recorded no “golden showers” or “unorthodox or embarrassing behavior” from countless hours of eavesdropping on Clinton and her retinue. The best they could come up with was ”things she had said which contradicted her current position on various issues.”
Whether the new report has enough blasting power to permanently damage, or even derail, the incoming Trump administration remains to be seen. It may even turn out to be phony—yet another concoction by Russian intelligence to throw American politics into another round of chaos. The only thing it proves is that sex sells scandal in America like nothing else.
This story has been updated to include a report in the Wall Street Journal about who was allegedly behind the original memos.